600,000 victims still displaced
About 600,000 people remained at temporary shelters or with relatives on Friday after days of heavy rain that killed 20, officials said.
A day after floods ebbed in Metro Manila, stagnant pools of water and high tides in coastal areas prolonged the misery in Central Luzon, according to civil defense official Josefina Timoteo.
“These are mainly farmers and fisher folk who still cannot return to their homes or resume work. We are still supplying their needs,” said Timoteo, the civil defense chief for the region.
“These are low-lying regions and this happens every year. It is a way of life for many of them and the local governments are well-organized to provide relief,” she told Agence France-Presse.
Seasonal monsoons dumped more than a month’s rain in Manila and surrounding provinces between Sunday and Wednesday, the weather service said, submerging about half the capital in floodwaters.
Off to China
The rains were worsened by Tropical Storm “Maring (international name: Trami),” which hit China on Thursday after hovering off northern Luzon earlier in the week.
The government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 200,000 people were still in government-run shelters on Friday, with 400,000 others staying with friends or relatives and likewise receiving food rations and other emergency aid.
The council raised the death toll to 20 as receding floodwaters led to the discovery of two bodies in Cavite province.
Most of those who have yet to return home are in Central Luzon, where 481 villages remain under floodwaters up to a meter deep, Timoteo said.
The weather is improving but the evacuation centers, mostly school buildings, are expected to start emptying only next week, she added.
Still no classes
As a result, classes are still suspended in those areas, she said.
The health department has stocked up on medicines at evacuation camps to prevent the spread of epidemics, she said, adding there had been no reports of widespread diseases so far.
The floods caused an estimated P97.3 billion pesos worth of damage to infrastructure and crops, the government said.
The National Food Authority (NFA) distributed some 7,900 bags of rice to flood victims, mainly in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. Rice bags were also sent to Southern Tagalog provinces as well as the Cordillera and Ilocos Region where large areas were flooded for several days.
According to the NFA, prices and supplies of rice are stable in affected areas. The agency said its monitoring showed that at the height of Maring, prices of commercial rice were observed at a range of P30-P32 per kilogram for regular-milled rice and P32-P39 per kilogram for well-milled rice in Metro Manila.
GSIS loans available
Meanwhile, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) announced it would extend emergency loans to its members affected by floods.
In a statement, the GSIS said members in good standing can take out up to P20,000 under its Emergency Loan Program, payable in 36 equal monthly instalments.
“The GSIS has made available a budget of P7 billion for the emergency loan program this year,” said GSIS President and General Manager Robert G. Vergara.
The GSIS has reduced the interest rate of the loan from 8 to 6 percent, waived the 1-percent service fee and extended the payment of the first monthly amortization to three months from the loan drawdown.
GSIS estimates that 200,000 of its members either work or reside in areas that were declared under “state of calamity” this week and would therefore be eligible for loans.
GSIS members may either apply for the loan in any GSIS branch or through its 147 GSIS Wireless Automated Processing System kiosks stationed in provincial, city or municipal halls and selected Robinson’s Malls. Some mobile loan processing units will be deployed in calamity areas.
“Members may apply for the loan beginning today, Vergara said. AFP, Ronnel W. Domingo and Paolo G. Montecillo
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